Monday, November 5, 2012

Circling the Wagons SLC 2012 Part I: Hitching my mustang to the wagon train

Circling the Wagons is an organization that seeks to reach out to LGBTQ/SSA/SGA [alphabet soup] people who identify as Mormon, either as a function of their culture or their current religious affiliation, and help them reconcile their faith with their sexuality. They do this in no prescribed way; as such, members of the organization and attendees at their second annual Circling the Wagons conference November 2-4, 2012 came from broad and varied walks of life, with virtually the only congruity being some kind of relationship with the LDS church.

CTW’s 2011 conference popped up on my newsfeed one day and I instantly regretted not knowing about it sooner so that I could plan to attend. Seeing the mainstream media's attention given to Bishop Kloosterman's talk and hearing some of the positive feedback on the mission of the organization, I knew that next year, I needed to be there.

However, this whole travelling-the-world thing and also having to work overtime to recuperate all those Guatemalan quetzales meant that I completely forgot that the conference was to be held the first weekend in November, or, um, yesterday.  I realized my mistake Friday night and desperately sought ways to attend. Cheap flights didn’t match the CTW schedule and my car isn’t exactly a Prius in the fuel-economy department, so I began to lament that I’d have to miss it yet again.  In a last fit of desperation, I texted a few friends, asking if anyone would like a last-minute, extremely short, no-expenses-paid trip to Utah.

As luck would have it, the best friend with whom I most often travel didn’t have any plans and would be willing to help with gas. He asked what I was going out there for and I sheepishly responded, “A conference,” hoping he’d drop it.  I’m out to this guy already, but I never like rubbing it in his face that I’m gay.

He didn’t drop it, and I expounded that it was a conference for gay Mormons. His response shocked me.

“I'd be interested in that, too.” I suppose I shouldn’t have been surprised. When I came out to this guy, his response was laden with a so-what attitude that told me that it didn’t matter to him if I was gay, because I was his friend first.

So we packed some bags, threw them in the trunk of my mom’s much more efficient car, and headed west.  We left at about 8 pm Friday night and made excellent time and fuel economy.  The drive was easy and very relaxing, and my friend and I make excellent travel companions.  [Sidebar: I am trying so hard not to sing this guy’s praises here because I think it might embarrass him, but as we drove, he asked thoughtful, kindhearted questions about my homosexuality and spirituality. Then, in the next minute, we’d be rocking out to Foxy Shazam and Aerosmith while downing tacos and Rockstars. His ability to be a genuine, true friend even in the face of something he doesn’t understand has humbled me ever since I met him five (!) years ago.]

The next morning, after a night that was more travel than sleep, we drove from my grandma’s home to the conference in Salt Lake. As we got closer, I became terrified. People I blog with at North Star would be there, as would members of BYU’s USGA support group. This being such a well-known conference, in my mind there was huge potential I’d run into someone I knew. My stomach was in knots, threatening to upend the Cheerios and caffeine I had for breakfast.

There it was, up ahead, looming large in the windshield.  Wasatch Presbyterian Church. A bastion of new experiences and affirmations, but a harbinger of potential social fallout or complicated feelings. I nearly pulled a u-turn and drove back home, but for whatever reason, instead, we parked and walked casually through the building doors. [Sidebar II: The hyperbole of two handsome, well-dressed men pulling up in a red convertible to a church in Sugar House, Utah to attend a gay conference was not lost on me.  My friend’s straighthood notwithstanding, we fit in well.]

More to come...


  1. That is one awesome friend you have.

  2. @Esel: I know right? Holy crap, this world is good.

  3. I wonder if you couldn't get your friend to say something about his experience at the conference, it would be an interesting piece to read and a unique perspective. Do you think he would?


Be nice, mmmmkay? I allow anonymous comments, but not anonymous (or even attributed) douchebaggery. The Gay Mormon Pioneer's tolerance for hate and venom are incredibly low, but his love of communication and debate are high, so have an opinion, but be kind and gentle when you share it.

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